Anand, Ju Wenjun In Action As WR Masters Returns In London, Dubai, Dusseldorf
London and Dubai will host major events in October and November 2024. Images: WR_Chess_Masters on X.

Anand, Ju Wenjun In Action As WR Masters Returns In London, Dubai, Dusseldorf

| 20 | Chess Event Coverage

Former World Champion Viswanathan Anand will be joined by Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun and 14 more top players for the WR Chess Masters Cup, a 16-player knockout in London that runs October 14-18. That's just the start of a month of chess, with an eight-player WR Chess Masters in Dubai (October 31-November 3) before the $4 million WR Chess Masters High Roller on November 21st in Dusseldorf. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi is the one player set to play all three events.  

The inaugural WR Masters in February 2023 was won by GM Levon Aronian, who triumphed in a playoff against the then and future world championship challengers, Nepomniachtchi and GM Gukesh Dommaraju.  

Aronian defeated both Gukesh and Nepomniachtchi in the playoff—curiously he doesn't play in any of the 2024 events. Photo: Lennart Ootes/WR Masters.

It seemed the event might be a one-hit wonder when there was no repeat in early 2024, but then not one, but three (and counting) events were announced. The one that has understandably taken all the headlines is the $1 million buy-in High Roller tournament, for which GMs Nepomniachtchi, Fabiano Caruana, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, and Hans Niemann have all found investors. That provides an unprecedented $2 million top prize, but third place will be losing $600,000, while the player in last place gets nothing and so loses a full $1 million. (The organizer takes a "house rake" of $100,000.)

Someone is going to win... and lose... $1 million. Image: WR_Chess_Masters on X.

The time control for the High Roller event is 15+0 i.e. 15 minutes per player for the entire game, with no increment added after a move, so that we could see a $2 million swing resting on flying pieces in a time scramble. 

The time control for the two other events is also unusual, with 60 minutes for 30 moves, then 30 minutes for 20 moves, then 30 minutes until the end of the game. It seems there's also no increment, so that the maximum length of a game will be four hours—two hours for each player.

That's necessary, since the plan is to play two classical games a day. Let's start with the smaller event. 

WR Chess Masters, October 31-November 3, Dubai, UAE 

# Name FED Age Rating (June 2024) World Rank
1 Ian Nepomniachtchi 33 2770 4
2 Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu 18 2747 13
3 Anish Giri 29 2745 14
4 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 26 2733 18
5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 33 2732 19
6 Vidit Gujrathi 29 2721 24
7 Alexander Grischuk 40 2719 25
8 Yu Yangyi 30 2715 26

In 2023, the WR Chess Masters was a 10-player single round-robin. In 2024 it's been cut to eight players and just four days, with two games a day for the first three days and one on the last. The top-four seeds GMs Nepomniachtchi, Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, Anish Giri, and Jan-Krzysztof Duda are the only players returning from the first event. It's a curiosity that the average age is a high 30, with Praggnanandhaa the only representative of the new generation of chess talent.

One sub-plot will be the FIDE Circuit, with players competing for points and potentially a spot in the 2026 Candidates Tournament that decides the next world championship challenger. Clear first would earn 25.85 (at current ratings), just a point short of how much Gukesh earned for winning the Candidates. 

A sole winner of the other tournament, however, will earn 27.5 points, since the top-eight players—the ones who count for calculating circuit points—are even stronger. 

WR Chess Masters Cup, October 14-18, London, UK     

Name FED Age Rating (June 2024) World Rank
1 Ian Nepomniachtchi 33 2770 4
2 Nodirbek Abdusattorov 19 2766 5
3 Arjun Erigaisi 20 2761 8
4 Viswanathan Anand 54 2751 11
5 Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu 18 2747 13
6 Anish Giri 29 2745 14
7 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 26 2733 18
8 Veselin Topalov 49 2727 22
9 Vidit Gujrathi 29 2721 24
10 Daniil Dubov 28 2701 28
11 Nikita Vitiugov 37 2688 40
12 Andrey Esipenko 22 2677 52
13 Raunak Sadhwani 18 2641 101
14 Victor Bologan 52 2598 190
15 Ju Wenjun 33 2558 338
16 Alexandra Kosteniuk 40 2501 633

The Cup features four players who are currently top-10 on the live rating list, including the seemingly unstoppable GM Arjun Erigaisi. 15th World Chess Champion Anand has been tempted back into action...

...while the 16-player field has provided space to invite both Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun and GM Alexandra Kosteniuk

The format is a knockout tournament with two fast classical games followed, if needed, by a single armageddon game, where the players will bid for the lowest amount of time they're willing to play to have the black pieces and only need a draw.  

One other related event deserves a mention. 

FIDE World Rapid & Blitz Team Championships, August 1-6, Astana, Kazakhstan

Wadim Rosenstein, a businessman who moved with his family from Russia to Germany as a child, is the "WR" in the title of the tournaments. In 2023 his WR Logistics was the main sponsor for the FIDE World Rapid Team Championship in Dusseldorf, an event that featured an amateur board (<2000 Elo) and saw the sponsor become a world champion.

This year Rosenstein has an excellent chance not only to defend that title but pick up a new one, since world number-one Magnus Carlsen has been added to the WR Chess Team lineup, while there's also now a World Blitz Team Championship to go with the Rapid.

The general sponsor this time is not WR Logistics but FIDE's other main new sponsor since the cancellation of Russian sponsorship deals, Freedom Holding. Its CEO, Timur Turlov, renounced his Russian citizenship to become a Kazakh citizen after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The event will take place August 1-6 in Astana, Kazakhstan, with Team China another to watch—their line-up is set to include both chess World Champions, Ju and Ding Liren.

There's a packed chess schedule for the second half of 2024! 

Colin McGourty

Colin McGourty led news at Chess24 from its launch until it merged with a decade later. An amateur player, he got into chess writing when he set up the website Chess in Translation after previously studying Slavic languages and literature in St. Andrews, Odesa, Oxford, and Krakow.

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